Thursday, June 30, 2011

Leaving Spain

No matter how rough your time has been in a place, and no matter how excited you are to go on to the next thing... it's always a little bit sad to pack up your things and leave.  To take all your life down from the walls and leave them blank and white.  To cram a year's worth of life into two bags.  To say goodbye to the sights you've seen every day for a whole year.

I've already said goodbye to everyone I cared to say goodbye to.  I've given Yoichi cat a good cuddle.  But saying goodbye to my year in Spain, and all that it represented, and all that I hoped for it that it didn't turn out to be still remains.  And it turns out I don't know quite how to do that.

It's not goodbye to Spain forever.  Spain continues to be Spain, and I continue to be me, and I know that I will be back to visit it sometime in the not-too-distant future.  It is, though, goodbye to Spain as a place I've lived.  I don't think I'll ever come back here to live.  Never say never, but still.  So, farewell, Spain.  Once again, you've forced me to grow and to discover new things about myself.  And for that, and for the beauty of your people and cities (especially outside of Madrid, heh)  I'll always love you.  But now it's time to move on, and go back to where I think I am supposed to be.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I've graduated!

Well, the ceremony was all rather chill and somewhat disorganized, and they totally got our graduation date wrong on our completion letters (say it with me... Spain!), but I have graduated, and with a 9,53/10 average at that.  I have the certificate and transcripts.  It's done!  Hooray!
Me with my graduation certificate.  Actual diplomas take up to a year to process in Spain.
After lunch, we got to visit the room where they award the Cervantes Prize to excellent Spanish-language writers.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Thanks, Girls.

In one week I'll be in America, and for the past week I have done... nothing I'm willing to discuss on my blog!  No, no, I kid.  It hasn't been anything too crazy, just a whole ton of parties and laying in parks, saying goodbye to the friends I have made this year.  It's weird to think that I got here less than a year ago, or that at this time last year I was packing up my flat in Budapest, burying Bencelita, and saying goodbye to my friends there.  I was also sobbing hysterically pretty much nonstop.  In the past year, I have obtained a masters degree and figured out quite a few things about teaching and life in general.

All of my friends here are American.  I spend my free time almost exclusively with girls from my master's program.  It has created a different sort of dynamic, one that is temporary and foreign and intense.  And this year, while I am certainly sad to say "hasta luego" to those friends, it seems almost natural.  Everyone is going on to something new and exciting, a new adventure in a new place, and this is how life should be.  We have been camp friends to each other: thrown together in an intense situation to become impossibly close for a limited amount of time, always knowing that real life would come back some day and separate us again.  And I'm sure that we will keep in some sort of touch, because I really do love these girls, but it feels natural to split up and move on without each other to the next thing.

My "year off life" is almost over, thank God, and it's almost time to go back to the real thing.  But parts of it have been like a dream, almost exclusively thanks to the awesome American women I've gotten to spend it with.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dad's visit

Last week, Dad came to visit me.  He arrived Thursday morning, and I brought him home before letting him rest while I went to work.  Thursday afternoon we had Italian food and then visited the monastery, which Dad was quite impressed with, as well as walking all over the park and down to the lower town.  On Friday morning, Dad came into work with me, and the kids were misbehaved.  Oh well.  I couldn't be too upset, because that afternoon we were heading to the best place in Spain: Salamanca.  Dad wasn't able to visit me when I studied there before, so this would be my first time sharing it with him.
Castilla from the train
us in Plaza Mayor (the best Plaza Mayor in Spain)
Dad in front of the cathedral.
After walking around the old town a bit, we also headed to the river.  Salamanca continues to be gorgeous.
the old Roman bridge and I
the two cathedrals over the Rio Tormes
Dad and the cathedrals... this is the same spot where a very sleepy and jet-lagged me came to watch fireworks on one of my first nights in Salamanca.  Cities like to celebrate my arrival with fireworks!
We walked around some more, and then decided to get some dinner.  We started with gazpacho and salmorejo (cold tomato-based soups, the later thickened with bread), and the waitress laughed at how clean Dad's plate was.  The main course was the Iberian sampler, which was this beauty: steak, pork chops, lamb chops, lomo (pork loin), and sausage.  It also came with a big plate of roasted potatoes.  Only one piece of steak survived, and we took it to go and played a game of pretending to offer it to people for their dogs before we eventually left it in a little park for some doggy or kitty to find and enjoy.
Naturally, I was so hungry that I ate almost everything myself.  Poor Dad.  Look at him up there, hungry and just wanting a piece of meat!  (Note to any non-family readers: whenever a meal has bones, Dad likes to pile all of his bones onto either my or my sister's plate.  It's a running joke.)
After dinner, we wandered Salamanca some more and enjoyed the beautiful Plateresque city in the cool evening.  This is the new Cathedral.  Salamanca has two, and the new one was literally built around the old one because they didn't want to knock it down.
me and one of the Cathedral facades
This sign says, "Salamanca, a city which bewitches all who have enjoyed the pleasure of living there to return."  It's true.  I've written a lot about Salamanca before.  It was my first real experience abroad and in another culture and language.  I really think it majorly shaped who I am today.  I'm always so sad to leave it.  This time, though, I wasn't sad, because I'm going back to Budapest at least semi-long term.  I know I will see Salamanca again.
Plaza Mayor and the Moon
me in Plaza Mayor
Dad in Plaza Mayor
After watching one of the Die Hards on Spanish TV and getting a night's rest in our (admittedly awesome and quite cheap, I was pleased with the find) pension, we were up Saturday morning for chocolate con churros at my old stomping grounds of El Colonial.  After that, we headed to the Cathedrals for a bit of sight-seeing.
new Cathedral
old Cathedral
a chicken for LuLu
We spent a long time visiting the Cathedral and then, of course, stopped by the university so that Dad could find the little frog carved onto the facade, a tradition meant to bring good luck.  For lunch, we had a Balkan Platter at my favorite kebap place in town.  We also saw Mike Wyzowski from Monsters, Inc.
I made sure to bring Dad to the Museo del Toro, which is a fun little museum basically consisting of a crazy bull-fighting aficionados' personal  collection, all crammed haphazardly into a few cluttered rooms.
A toro... note the missing ear.  If the bullfighter does well, one or two ears or even the tail of the bull will be cut off and rewarded to the bullfighter.  These are typically mounted on little plaques, several of which can be seen at this museum.
Dad has also, apparently, learned the art of photo bombing.  The final shot of this series is me with his jacket on my head, thrown perfectly as I took the shot.  After some more wandering, and a few siesta frustrations, we headed back to San Lorenzo.  I made us stir fry for dinner so we wouldn't die of scurvy after too many consecutive meals in Spanish restaurants, and we chilled out and watched Archer.  Archer is a very, very funny show, by the way.
On Sunday we headed into Madrid and did the full sight-seeing round.  It was a very hot day, and by the end we were quite worn out.  Here is Dad in the Retiro Park.
We saw some unhappy police horses nervously going down the stairs in the park.
After the park, we wandered toward Sol, checking out the dirty hippies while drinking lemon slushies.  We got Indian for lunch in Lavapies while Dad laughed about how he was going to exaggerate his description of the area (it's an immigrant-heavy area) to torment Mom.
After lunch, we headed to Plaza Espana.  Here is Dad with Quijote.  Dad essentially is Quijote, so I found this photo fitting.
We also checked out the Temple of Debod and the view from there.  Finally, we visited the outside of the Royal Palace, popped into the Cathedral de la Almudena, and saw Plaza Mayor before surrendering to the heat and the siren call of more episodes of Archer and heading home to relax a bit.
On Monday morning while I was at work, Dad climbed the Abantos mountain behind my house, unwilling to let Balint have been my only guest to have done so.  I had planned to perhaps visit Segovia or Toledo in the afternoon, but we were worn out from so much sightseeing that we just relaxed and played cards, as well as continued to torture Mr. Yoichi cat with the catnip mice (this time on a fishing rod!) that Mom sent for him.  I also helped Dad pack his suitcase with a ton of my belongings to bring home.
Last night's dinner: Dad's tuna.
My sardine fillets with potatoes and Padron peppers.  Cheesecake was also involved.
On Tuesday morning, it was up early to head to the airport.  Happily that went painlessly, except for poor Dad who had to deal with my suitcase that is missing a wheel.  We had breakfast at the airport, and then Dad had to go through security.  It was a great visit where we saw a ton, ate delicious food, and had a lot of fun.  I really, really enjoyed the visit.  It was also so different from Mom's also great visit, so it was fun to experience my parents individually in separate visits.  Dad's visit was also basically my last "thing" here in Spain, and marked the beginning of the end.  So so soon, I will be in America and then in Hungary again, but first it was wonderful to show Dad "my" Spain.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


I must say that having turned in my thesis was a remarkable thing for me.  It's as if my life changed over night.  I had no more classes, my paper was done, and my classes switched to mornings-only (apparently it's too hot for the kids to go to class in the afternoon, despite the fact that I've had to break out my jacket again this week, but I'm not complaining!).  On top of that, my private lessons are kind of winding down as the end of the year approaches.  All in all it's rather lovely!

This weekend I also took a quick trip down to the southern coast of Spain to visit Malaga with Carissa, Katie, Juliet, and Leslie.  Juliet and Leslie lived there a few years ago, so we stayed with some of their friends, who were lovely and generous people.  And I have to say that I did no sightseeing.  I partied all night, slept all morning, and spent all afternoon on the beach.  And there was a distinct moment where I was lying in the sun, and my body just sort of relaxed.  I consciously felt all the badness of this year just sort of flow out of me.  My shoulders dropped, my breathing slowed, and my jaw unclenched.  And I must admit that until that moment, I was rather unaware of how much this year was affecting me.  I mean, I was physically wound up from all that I had going on.  But in the sun of Malaga, I closed my eyes and my body opened again.  It was fantastic.  And to top it all off, I managed to escape with a sunburn on only my nose and the outer half of my right foot, despite hours in direct sunlight.  A true miracle.

our view
(The tower is the Cathedral.)
the river
tropical flowers
amazing salad with jamon, goat cheese, caramelized onions, apples, walnuts...
the other beach on the second day
me, only mildly pink and happy